We've arrived at the place Where Dreams Come True, and quickly come to the conclusion that this designation does not apply to anyone old enough to buy a drink or participate in our nation's democratic process. Gwen and I shuffled through the Orlando Airport like inmates on the way to central booking - we didn't know exactly what was in store, but we had a pretty good idea it wasn't going to be pleasant.
And the reality waiting at the other end did not disappoint. Epcot, the Magic Kingdom and MGM - rides and characters and standing in line. It all blurs together into some kind of prefab nightmare that includes foot blisters, shuttle buses and the notes from "it's a small world," pulsing through dehydrated brain cells.
And then there's the food. How exactly to describe the food at Disney? Here's a word - horrendous. If they are ever looking for a place to host a Fried Carbohydrates Convention, Orlando is it. And luckily enough the facilities are expansive enough to simultaneously accommodate the first annual meeting of the Fresh Green Produce Haters of America. The only apparent nod to the growing worldwide focus on healthy eating took the form of a few small carts (which we saw only in Epcot) featuring pre-bagged celery and carrot sticks that looked like they were pulled out of the ground shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.
I'd pay good money to see Gordon Ramsay come down here and take a chunk out of the people dishing out this mass-produced cuisine. He can start at Epcot's "Mexico," where we had a lunch yesterday that was bad enough to scotch the NAFTA accord. Larded up international "classics" in styrofoam clamshells waiting dutifully in line under heat lamps. Cue Gordon, getting in the face of some plump and sweaty manager:"What are you DOING man? Have you ever heard of cholesterol? Fat? You call that a taaco? Come here, you, I'll show you a bloody taaco! These people are on holiday... do you want to KILL someone on their holiday?!"
No way to get through a trip like this unless you decide early on to live it from behind the eyes of your children, because they are in heaven. This is not a shared vacation - a little bit for them and a little bit for you. This is all them. This is taking one for the team. This is something you do for your offspring, a pilgrimage you make, not necessarily because you want to, but because you should, because it's part of the deal. Like saving for a college education, or agreeing not to smoke cigars in the house.
I'll post a more complete summary in the coming days, probably when we're home and I've been able to find and devour some form of leafy green vegetable not from the Phylum Iceberg. We're going to a place called Chef Mickey's for dinner tonight, something they refer to down here as "character dining." Mickey, Minnie, Donald, they'll all be there, wandering from table to table signing autographs and posing for photos. The kids will be beaming, and I'll be scanning the room for Tony Bourdain, who is the kind of character I'd like to dine with. I'm pretty sure he won't be around.
Here are a few so-far photos, in addition to the one above, which was taken on the way to our "princess breakfast" at Epcot's Norway:
[Four different parks, four different maps, and Madison has helped herself to at least five of each so far. Here, we see the girls consulting the map of Epcot.]
[Main Street Parade in the Magic Kingdom. "Beast" scowls down at our little ones, which momentarily shocks them out of demanding unhealthy snacks or overpriced souvenirs.]
[Ariel in her grotto. This was the highlight of the morning.]
[Oh, the humanity...]